Tag Archives: Faith

Reclaim, Episode 2: “Fasting”

In this brand new video series, Pastor Todd of First United Methodist Church of Newton, NJ brings passionate awareness and helpful tips on various transformational Christian practices and theology. Each episode will inspire and motivate spiritual growth through time-tested practices and and wisdom.

This week’s episode invites you to RECLAIM fasting as a wholesome and healthy practice in our lives. In this episode, Pastor Todd will discuss what fasting is and answer the question, “why fast?”. In this episode you will also find his own experiences with fasting, as well as tips for different ways to fast.

God’s People, part 276: Typical Politicians

Read Acts 24:1-27; 25:1-29

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“I am planning to go to Spain, and when I do, I will stop off in Rome. And after I have enjoyed your fellowship for a little while, you can provide for my journey.”  (Romans 15:24, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Part 276: Typical Politicians. As was discussed in the last devotion, Paul was a Roman citizen and he used that fact to his advantage after being arrested in the Jerusalem Temple. Following his arrest, a Roman commander was going to have Paul whipped and beaten for being a “rabble rouser” but, prior to that happening, Paul questioned the legality of that being that he was a Roman Citizen by birth and had not received a fair trial.

The question was a successful move on Paul’s part and, as a result, was placed under protective custody while he awaited trial. In Acts 24, we see that Paul’s trial fell into the hands of Felix, who was the governor of Judaea at the time. Judaean Governors, lived in the city of Caesarea and rarely came to Jerusalem, except on high holy days and other events that could break into a successful rebellion due to the massive number of people gathering in the city. Thus, Paul was transported to a palace prison in Caesarea where he awaited trial.

Paul’s trial started twelve days after he was arrested, and he was accused of being a trouble maker and someone who desecrated the Temple, which he had not done but had been accused of. Thus, Felix turned to Paul to hear his side of things. Paul did so eloquently, and he explained why he was in Jerusalem, and that as a devout Jew he was at the Temple to observe the purification ritual. He did admit to being “a follower of The Way” (aka a follower of Jesus), which he also pointed out that the Jews accusing him saw “The Way” as a cult; however, he also pointed out his deep, devout Jewish convictions and his desire to follow the Law and the prophets.

When Felix heard that he was a follower of The Way, which he was familiar with, he decided to table the trial until the commander came. Paul was kept in prison, but was allowed to have some freedoms, such as regular visitors. The problem was that Felix’s wife was Jewish and he did not want to upset her or the Jewish people. Felix had to walk a fine line and he was hoping that Paul would get himself into trouble by trying to bribe him, or to find some other cause to nail Paul on.

Days turned into weeks, which turned into months, which turned into two long years. Yet, the trial ceased to continue. After two years in prison, another governor succeeded Felix. His name was Porcius Festus and, once he took over, he resumed Paul’s trial after pressure from the Jewish authorities. The initial trial took place in Ceasarea; however, not wanting to further upset the Jewish leaders, he asked Paul if he was willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial there. Paul objected and appealed to the emperor.

Little did Paul know that King Herod Agrippa was also coming to hear Paul’s case. According to Agrippa, he would have let Paul go if he had not appealed to Caesar; however, this should be taken with a grain of salt as Agrippa, just like Festus and Felix, was typical politician. With no pressure on him, he could easily make such a claim now that it was out of his hands; however, would he really have just let Paul go? Also, couldn’t Agrippa arranged to let Paul go and not send the appeal.

The point is that Paul knew that Christ was calling him to Rome. In his very letter to the Romans, he said that he wanted to go to Rome on his way to Spain. While I am sure that Paul knew that a trial in Caesar’s court might not go his way in the end, he was also sure that he could continue to witness to Christ in Rome as he knew he was called to do.

As for Felix, Festus and Agrippa, they were men of power. They didn’t care about Paul as much as they did their own prestige and station in life. All they cared about was looking good and keeping the peace. Paul was nothing to them, just a number. They were, sad to say, typical politicians. In appealing to Caesar, Paul was not actually looking for Caesar, another typical politician, to save him, but was fully thrusting himself into Christ’s plan. It was an act of faith and faithfulness. Let us, like Paul, not put our trust and hope in people, let alone politicians. They will fail us; however, Christ will not fail us and if we remain faithful to his mission, not even death will be able to stop us from our true inheritance.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
There is only one Savior, Jesus the Christ, and he is our only HOPE.

PRAYER
Lord, I look to you, and you alone, as my Lord and my Savior. In you alone I place my faith. Amen.

The Power of Faith

Read Hebrews 11

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.”  (Matthew 17:20, NLT)

As you can see, I have been concentrating on horror movies throughout the month of October because that is Halloween month. For me, Halloween is not just a day, it’s an entire season. So, I spend at least October, if not parts of September and November watching horror films and listening to gothic and atmospheric music. This is a yearly ritual for me as Halloween is one of my favorite holidays…EVER.

One of my favorite vampire films from the 80s is one called, “Fright Night”, with William Ragsdale, Amanda Bearse, Roddy McDowall and Chris Sarandon (aka Susan Sarandon’s brother). I love the film because it brings back memories of being a kid in the 80s and watching that film and others during the Halloween season. There is something about horror films in the 80s, with their blend of camp and over the top special effects that just draw me right in.

Anyway, this film is about a boy named Charlie who notices strange goings on next door after it is purchased by a strange, enigmatic man. As it turns out, Charlie becomes aware that his neighbor is a vampire because he sees him biting a woman through the bedroom window. He also saw his neighbor and a helper carrying what looked like a coffin into the basement of the house.

At first he tries to tell his mom; however, she thinks he had a bad nightmare and doesn’t believe him. His friend and his girlfriend don’t believe him either and Charlie feels at wits end because the vampire made it clear that he knows Charlie is on to him. To make matters worse, the neighbor, whose name was Jerry Danridge, was invited over to his house by his mom, which means that Jerry could now enter the house anytime he wants and harm his family.

Out of desperation, Charlie sought out a movie actor who portrayed his favorite vampire slayer, Peter Vincent. Of course, Peter was not REALLY a vampire slayer, but just an actor; however, to make a long story short, Charlie did eventually convince Peter that his neighbor is a vampire and that he needed Peter’s help. There is one scene where Jerry approached Peter Vincent to attack him and he pulled out a cross to ward him off. To Peter and Charlie’s surprise, Jerry  laughed at them, grabbed the cross, and crumbled it in his hand. “You have to have faith,” the vampire mocked, “for this to work Mr. Vincent!”

As he bent down to bit Peter, Charlie, with a fire in his eyes, lifted his cross. You could see that HE DID BELIEVE and, as a result, Jerry hissed backwards and ran away. Charlie, because of his faith in the power of the cross…the power of Christ…was able to save his hero’s life. Charlie and Peter both learned a valuable lesson that day. There is great power in faith.

The Bible teaches us that “faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see” (Hebrews 11:1, NLT). Charlie had hoped that by raising the cross he would be able to stop the vampire from doing harm to Peter. He had no evidence that it would work, and he couldn’t physically see how a cross could stop such evil; however, he believed that if he raised that cross, it WOULD WORK. He had faith and, because of that, he was able to overcome the evil that was attacking him and Peter Vincent.

While we live in the real world, where vampired don’t exist, we still are called to stand up against evil and oppression. Yet, how can we do that? How can we, who are sinful human beings, ever resist the forces of sin, evil, oppression and death? Christ calls us to have faith, to believe in HIS power to overcome such things through us. It’s not we who have the power, but HE who lives within us who can stop evil in it’s tracks and make it cower before the GOOD NEWS of Jesus Christ as expressed both on the cross and in the empty tomb.

This should challenge us to grow in our faith and to grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ. Like Charlie, not everyone will believe us, nor will they believe in what we believe in. Some may even mock us and most will not join us in our effort to do what is right despite the overwhelming odds. None of that matters if we keep our focus and our faith in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. It is him who will lead us to rise up against and resist evil and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation.” – D. Elton Trueblood

PRAYER
Lord, I do believe. Help me with my unbelief. Amen.

Vampire Hunters

Read Ephesians 6:11-18

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”  (1 Peter 5:8, NLT)

I just watched a new Netflix Original film entitled, “Vampires vs. the Bronx”, which is a comedy horror film about Vampires moving into the Bronx in order to take over the community and feed on its people. With that said, these vampires aren’t doing so out in the open; rather, they are hiding behind a real estate company that is run by a “familiar”, a human being who is promised by the vampires to be given immortality if he faithfully serves them.

The story centers around a young teenager (maybe 14 or a little younger) named Miguel Martinez, who is also nicknamed Li’l Mayor because of his desire to community organize. In fact, we first see him and his friends passing out flyers to save a local bodega (convenience store/deli), which is suffering because of people “moving out” of the community due to being bought out by a real estate company named, “Murnau Properties.” If you are a vampire fan, you will recognize that the real estate is named after F. W. Murnau, who was the director of the 1922 film, Nosferatu.

As it turns out, these business and home owners were not moving out; rather, they were being “bought out”, sold out, and then killed by the vampires. Miguel and his friends discover this and set out to stop the vampires from taking over their community; however, they find themselves grossly underprepared. Why? Let me just say, it is not because they are kids. In fact, if anything that is their greatest strength because their innocence and imaginations aren’t destroyed by adulthood.

The reason they are underprepared is because they don’t have all the tools they need to hunt and fight these vampires. They aren’t just fighting human beings behaving badly. They cannot just call the police, because they won’t believe these kids of color in the ‘hood over an establised, white real estate business. These kids are fighting SPIRITUAL forces of evil and injustice and, community organizing isn’t enough in spiritual warfare.

These kids, then, realize that though they typically avoided church and religion, they had to turn to it in order to fight these vampires. They needed to go to church, they needed to understand the power of the Eucharist (Holy Communion), they needed to rely on the power of the Cross, and the power of FAITH in Jesus Christ to defeat these foes. Suddenly, the church they saw as a boring obligation became their hope, and the priest they thought was too tough on them became their ally.

These kids learned an invaluable lesson that it takes more than activism and community organize to fight the forces of sin and evil. Spiritual warfare needs to be fought spiritually. In one of my favorite scenes, a vampire is about to kill one of the kids who, suddenly, pulls out the host and places it in the vampire’s mouth after proclaiming, “The Body of Christ”. The vampire was, at that very instant, rendered to ash.

This should challenge us to remember the importance of faith. Activism and community organizing will only ever take us so far. Why? Because people are sinful by nature and, even with the best intentions, will fail in truly setting up sinless institutions and organizations of change. What’s more, we are fighting forces that are not merely human, but are spiritual and evil in nature. In order to conquer such forces, we need to turn to the ONE who conquered sin, evil and death on the cross! Only Jesus Christ can help us overcome such forces and usher in the Kingdom of God in this world. Let us look toward Miguel and his friends as our example of why religion, faith and Jesus Christ are VITAL to changing our world.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Do you rely on Jesus to resist sin, evil and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?

PRAYER
Lord, I place my full trust in you. Hold me to this and steer me on the path of righteousness. Amen.

God’s People, part 217: Ten Lepers

Read Luke 17:11-19

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“So Naaman went down to the Jordan River and dipped himself seven times, as the man of God had instructed him. And his skin became as healthy as the skin of a young child, and he was healed!” (2 Kings 5:14, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

jesus_lepersPart 217: Ten Lepers. The account of Jesus’ healing the ten men with leprosy is a powerful one for sure, and it is also an account that has multiple layers to it. So often, we read these accounts like we would read a simplistic children’s account, word for word, line for line, without ever looking deeper in between the words and the lines on the page. This is, partly, not our fault as we are far removed from Jesus’ time and place and certainly the context is missing. Still, we often gloss over details that are quite revealing of the larger picture.

The first layer I would like to peel back is the location of the ten lepers. Luke tells us that Jesus was heading from Galilee toward Jerusalem. It is important to recall that there were only two ways from Galilee to Jerusalem. One way was a wilderness road that went around Galilee; however, that road, though well traveled, was treacherous because bandits would hide in the cliffs and rocks and ambush travelers. The other way was to go through Samaria; however, the Jews often avoided this because they believed the Samaritans to be wicked and believed that they would be defiled by them if they even so much as crossed paths.

Clearly, Luke indicates that Jesus was perfectly fine traveling through Samaria and, actually, other Gospels such as John corroborate that fact. When Jesus reached the border of Galilee and Samaria, he came to a village and came across ten men with leprosy standing at a distance from him. We are not sure what “village” this was as Luke never names it; however, it is more than likely that it was a leper colony outside of a larger village on the border of Samaria.

The next layer is that when the men call out for mercy, they may or may not have been calling out for healing; rather, they may have been calling out for alms. In fact, when most people in Jesus’ day called out for mercy, they were looking for almsgiving. Still, it is possible, that they had heard of Jesus’ healing and that they were asking for Jesus to heal them. Whatever the case may be, Jesus saw them and responded, “‘Go show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy” (Luke 17:14, NLT). What I love about this layer is that it is quite possible that these men were looking for money and Jesus surprised them with something far greater than that!

That bring us to the next layer needing to be peeled. The point of this account is not actually about the healing, but about the response of the ten. Luke tells us that as the ten men with leprosy left to go to the priest, as Jesus had instructed them, they were cleansed of their leprosy. So, what we see here is that as soon as they obeyed Jesus command they were instantly healed. It did not happen once they arrived at the priest, but immediately as they responded in obedience to Jesus’ command. Nine of those men, seeing that they were healed, continued on to the priests, were investigated and deemed clean. Jesus never saw or heard from them again.

With that said, upon being healed, one of the men instantly turned around and ran back to Jesus. This is the final and most shocking of the layers. As he approached Jesus he began shouting, “Praise God!” What’s more, the man fell down a the feet of Jesus, thanking him for what he had done. More than thanking Jesus, he was worshiping (as the act of prostrating before someone or something indicates) the presence of God within Jesus.

With all of this before us, the real twist to the story is in the fact that this man was a Samaritan. The other nine, who never returned to praise God and thank Jesus, were Jews; however, this one who did return and recognize the presence of God in Jesus was a Samaritan. The Jews, including those other nine men, would look at this one man as a Godless Gentile, and yet it is this “Godless Gentile” who recognized the presence of God in Jesus, praised and worshiped him.

What this teaches us is to never, ever judge a book by its cover. Sadly, we often look at those who are different than us, who are outside of our culture, our religion, our politics and world views as being “less than us”; however, as this account points out, we may be the ones who are lacking in actually seeing the presence of God. Yes, we should hold fast to our beliefs of God and Jesus Christ; however, not at the cost of discounting or judging others, nor at the cost of dismissing God’s ability to reveal Godself to anyone at any time. This should humble and challenge us to open ourselves to being merciful, compassionate, understanding, welcoming and loving toward all people no matter how different we may perceive them.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.” – John Milton

PRAYER
Lord Jesus, help me to respond to you in humble and grateful ways. I am wholly yours. Amen.

God’s People, part 200: Faithless

Read Mark 9:14-29

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory.”  (1 Peter 1:21, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

jesus-heal-boy-1Part 200: Faithless. In today’s Scripture, we have a very interesting account where we get to see both the humanity and divinity at play within Jesus. When we picture Christ in our minds, we see this jovial, nice, guy with a smile on his face and a lamb over his shoulders. He’s surrounded by children as he sits on a rock for storytime. He’s calm and serene; sometimes, he’s even glowing (e.g. halo).

Yet, that is merely a two-dimensional view of Jesus, at best. In today’s passage, we see a wholly different side of the Lord. He heard a bunch of arguing and questioned what that was all about. It  was then that a man, whose son was possessed by an evil spirit, spoke up. He told Jesus that he asked the disciples to cast out the spirit and they simply couldn’t.

In that moment, we see a frustration in Jesus we have yet to really see before this point. Jesus vents out to them, “’You faithless people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.’”  (Mark 9:19, NLT) This of course, caused the disciples to begin to worry if they Jesus was referring to them. Did the Lord actually view them as “faithless”? Thus, when they were alone, they later asked Jesus why they were unable to exorcise the demon. Jesus revealed that “this kind can be cast out only by prayer” (Mark 9:29, NLT).

In my reading of this, while the disciples sometimes displayed a lack of faith, Jesus was not frustrated with them. He knew they had no way of knowing how to specifically cast out the evil spirit. What’s more, they attempted to, which means that they were NOT lacking in faith. Instead, they were stepping out in it.

What this then reveals to us is that Jesus’ frustrations lay with the people who sought help from the disciples. It is there that we see the faithlessness that Jesus was upset about. The people came to the disciples looking for a service to be performed and, when they could not deliver, they came bickering and griping about it to Jesus.

It was that sentiment that frustrated Jesus. They wanted to see the result before they would believe and, when the final product was not delivered on time in they way they were anticipating, they grew angry. They approached the disciples and Jesus as if they were a means to an end, as if they were some sort of miracle producing side-show. They approached them in faithlessness rather than in faith. Of course, Jesus healed the child anyway, but not before making an example of those who came seeking the healing.

It is this that we are being challenged with today. Do we have a relationship with Jesus Christ? Do we place our faith solely in Him? Do we spend time getting to know him or do we merely seek him out when we need something. Do we see Christ as our ultimate and eternal end, or do we simply try to use Him as a means to some sort of self-gratifying end? Let us truly reflect on this and remember that Christ is LORD. Him, and Him alone, do we serve. Let us do so faithfully.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” – Anonymous (Hebrews 13:8, NLT)

PRAYER
Lord, I believe in you. Help me with my unbelief. Amen.

God’s People, part 188: Bleeding Woman

Read Mark 5:25-34

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“When the woman’s bleeding stops, she must count off seven days. Then she will be ceremonially clean. On the eighth day she must bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons and present them to the priest at the entrance of the Tabernacle. The priest will offer one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. Through this process, the priest will purify her before the LORD for the ceremonial impurity caused by her bleeding.”  (Leviticus 15:28-30, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

woman-touches-clothes-of-jesus-mediumPart 189: Bleeding Woman. When the accounts of Jesus’ healings are read, they are most likely read with a certain “wow” factor in place. Most people, I would imagine, are not aware of the social, economic, or spiritual implications of the afflicted in these accounts. At best, they are most likely looked at as unfortunates whose fortune changes for the good when they encounter Jesus.

In the account of the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years we learn a number of things. First, we learn of what it must have been like in Jesus’ time. So many desperate people were trying to be in the right place at the right time in order to receive healing. Every where Jesus went, people were coming to him seeking to be healed.

We also learn that these people were the “untouchables” in society. While these were the people who NEEDED to see Jesus, the crowds gathered around Jesus completely unaware and apathetic to the plight of the afflicted. In one such story, a paralyzed man had to be lowered down through a roof by his friends in order to get to a place where Jesus could see and heal him.

In this account of the bleeding woman, she too was crowded out by the apathetic mob following Jesus. She had to fight through the to reach Jesus and she could only do so from behind. There was no chance she would have an opportunity to talk with him and explain her affliction. “She thought to herself, ‘If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.’” (Mark 5:28, NLT)

Before we can fully understand her plight, we need to truly understand the full weight of her condition. The Bible tells us that she was “bleeding” for twelve years. What this meant was that she basically had her menstrual cycle, non-stop, for twelve years. This condition would have rendered, and anyone who came in contact with her, ceremonially unclean.

In Leviticus, the law was laid out clearly. The bleeding from childbirth made a woman unclean for 33 days afterward (Leviticus 12:4). Any woman with her menstrual cycle was ceremonial unclean for two weeks, the week of her period and the week after (Leviticus 15:19). As for a woman experiencing bleeding unrelated to her menstrual cycle, which is exactly what this woman in Mark was experiencing, the law stated: “…she is ceremonially unclean. As during her menstrual period, the woman will be unclean as long as the discharge continues” (Leviticus 15:25).

That means that this poor woman had been ritually unclean for 12 long years, cut off from society and from spiritual nourishment and care. 12 years of isolation and rejection, not to mention the physical effects of it, including pain. Priests wouldn’t go near her, and the doctors were ineffective at curing her. In fact, her condition only worsened.

So, this woman was desperate and in her desperation she wasn’t going to be ignored, even if it mean that she would reach out and grab Jesus’ robe. She was going to do whatever it took to receive healing. Just her touching Jesus would have defiled him in the eyes of the religious leaders. But that didn’t stop Jesus from seeking her out when he felt her touch.

Ignoring the disciples jeering him for wondering who in the crowd touched him, and ignoring the crowd itself, Jesus turned his attention to this woman and, when she presented herself before him, he let her know that her faith had healed her. This woman became an example for us all in the power of faith.

The challenge for us is to have the faith of the bleeding woman and to separate ourselves from the judgmentalism of religious people and people in society. We all struggle with something and our faith can be a healing foundation for us. What’s more, we all have the Holy Spirit given power to be a healing presence in the lives of others; however, we have to take the time to be aware and notice the people who need healing. As God’s people, let us not get distracted by the mundane, but open our eyes to the REAL NEEDS around us.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“The smallest seed of faith is better than the largest fruit of happiness.” – Henry David Thoreau

PRAYER
Lord, thank you for the faith you have nurtured within me. May it grow to move this mountain into service of others. Amen.

God’s People, part 168: Philip

Read John 14:8-14

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”  (Philippians 4:13, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Rubens_apostel_philippusPart 168: Philip. Philip is one of the disciples/apostles in all four of the Gospel accounts; however, we know very little of him from the synoptic Gospels (e.g. Mark, Matthew, and Luke). Instead, Philip is more prominently figured in the Gospel of John. It is there that we get a sense of who Philip was and how he interacted with the other disciples and with Jesus.

Philip was from the town of Bethsaida, the hometown of Andrew and Peter. According to John’s Gospel, Andrew and an unnamed disciple were followers of John the Baptist. Once John proclaimed Jesus as the Lamb of God, Andrew and the unnamed disciple left the Baptist and followed Jesus. The unnamed disciple has traditionally been understood to be the beloved disciple, whom has also traditionally understood to be John, brother of James. We will refer to him as John to keep things less confusing.

From there, Andrew and John took Jesus to Simon, whom he renamed Cephas (Aramaic for Peter). Presumably, John’s brother James was also there. These were the first four disciples called by Jesus. The next disciple, the fifth to be called, was Philip of Bethsaida. We do not know what Philip’s trade was, whether he was a fisherman or not, but we do know that the Gospel is written in such a way that seems to indicate that Andrew and Peter knew Philip. Bearing a Greek name, it has been speculated Philip may have spoken Greek and may have been known to some Greek pilgrims who were visiting Jerusalem (John 12:21). If that was the case, it certainly went on to be a benefit to him while serving Jesus.

It is believed that Philip was among the disciples at the wedding in Cana, since he was called prior to the event. Philip also introduces Jesus to Nathanael, who was also among those at the wedding. Philip, like Andrew, seemed to have a passion for bringing people into a relationship with his master. On top of introducing Nathanael, Philip let Andrew know that there were Greek pilgrims who wanted to speak to Jesus, and they both went to tell Jesus about it (John 12:22).

Overall, he was a disciple who showed great faith; however, he did waiver in that faith and was sometimes confused in his understanding of Jesus over all. When Jesus asked the disciples to feed the 5,000 men (not counting women and children), it was Philip who was confounded and questioned Jesus on how that was even possible. It was also during the Last Supper that Philip didn’t seem to understand that by knowing and seeing Jesus, he had actually known and seen the Father as well.

I think, if we are honest, Philip is representative of most of us who follow Christ. We are passionate and want to serve Christ faithfully. Sometime, even, we come through on that; however, we often times get confounded by the seeming impossibilities surrounding us, and get lost in focusing on what we do not have as opposed to focusing on what we do have: CHRIST.

The challenge for us to stop relying on our own power and on our own abilities. They will fall short every time, and they will definitely leave us feeling hopeless. Rather, we need to place our faith in Christ, in whom all things are possible if we will only believe and take the step of faith. The challenge, therefore, is for us to place our faith wholly in Christ and to move forward in our Christian walk of faith, even when things seem impossible.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Faith is not about knowledge, it’s about trusting Christ enough to move forward even though one does not know.

PRAYER
Lord, give me the kind of faith that moves mountains. I can do all things through you who gives me strength. Amen.